Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Joest's in Germany: Part II

Earlier this summer, my family came over to Germany for a two week visit.  In the first blog post about their visit, we went to Lake Garda, the Bodensee and the Black Forest.  We also kept very busy during the second part of their trip.  We enjoyed visiting more nearby towns and markets and doing some nice walks in the local area.  (There is never a shortage of new hikes to check out around here!) We also went to France and Switzerland! It was definitely a packed two weeks full of good food, beautiful scenery and great company!

Drinks and lunch at a local brewery, the Schönbuch.   (Kari's isn't beer, although she's of the legal age in Europe!)

On one of the days that Kyle had to work, we took a day trip to the Alsace region in France, just across the border.  Kyle and I have been to the Alsace several times, but it's a favorite place of ours, so we love going there!  It's in the Rhine river valley between the French Vosges mountains and the German Black Forest.  The valley is full of vineyards and picture perfect little villages right out of a fairy tale.  We visited a couple of my favorite villages, Riquewihr and Ribeauville.  We also went to feed the monkeys on monkey mountain!  It was raining when we saw the monkeys, but it was still so much fun to feed them popcorn right out of our hands!  The barbary macaque monkeys there are the same type that we saw when Kyle and I visited Gibraltar and Morocco.  The Alsace definitely needs more than a day trip to do it justice, but at least they got to see a little piece of it!  (These pics are from Mom and Dad.)

A stork wondering around the village doing some window shopping

 Kyle had a second set of four days off when my family was visiting, so we headed south to enjoy the spectacular alpine scenery in Switzerland.  All five of us and Gizmo piled into our Volkswagon and made the three and a half hour drive to the 200 year old house rental in the Simmental valley.  (Mom, Kari and I think the house was haunted, but we all survived.)  There was a mix up with the keys and getting into the house, so we went on ahead to walk the Lauterbrunnen valley about 25 minutes away from the rental house.  We had food for a picnic, and we were all pretty hungry, but Switzerland has a surprising lack of picnic areas!  We ate our lunch in an avalanche shelter instead.  At least it was dry!

'Lauter brunnen' translated means "many fountains."  The valley has 72 waterfalls, so the name fits it well!

Gizmo enjoying the cold and fresh mountain water

We climbed up a short but steep walkway that led through a tunnel in the side of a cliff and behind a waterfall.

We saw quite a few base jumpers, which was pretty awesome!

Luckily we got the keys sorted out, and were able to get into our rental house when we got back to the Simmental valley.  We had a cute little outdoor dining area that we enjoyed each evening.  We had two types of soup that we made in Germany and brought with us, and one night we had fondue night.  Yum!

A cute little church behind our rental house

The rain moved out and the next day was clear and beautiful.  We went to the Grindelwald area to see the infamous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks and do some scenic hiking.  It was a great day!

I love that there's always a place to stop for drinks while hiking in Europe!

We had lovely views for our picnic lunch after our first walk of the day.

Here are some photos of our second walk in the Grindelwald area.  It had a wide variety of scenery from rocky cliffs to the lush forest.

Dad and Kari headed back from the hike early, and this is what we found when we got back to the car.  

We were driving home the next day, but the weather was amazing so we did another hike before heading out.  Dad's ankle was bothering him, so he stayed at the house while the rest of us headed up the mountain.  There was a cable car up to the the peak of Stockhorn just down the street from our house in the tiny town of Erlenbach im Simmental.  We took the cable car halfway up to hike around two little lakes.  The lady working told us that they were quick and easy hikes.  The scenery was spectacular and the hikes very enjoyable, but they were definitely not easy!  (I would hate to see what she calls a difficult hike!)  It was so peaceful and serene hiking the alpine meadows full of wildflowers and hearing the cowbells in the distance.  The paths went right through pastures, which was fun to see the cute cows.  (If I was a cow, I would want to live in one of those pastures!)  Kari was less than thrilled with walking through the muck and getting her shoes dirty, but those views were worth it for me!

Being up on an alp puts me in the mood to frolic!

Mom, Dad and Kari headed back to the States on July 17th, Kari's 17th birthday.  She didn't get a free birthday upgrade to first class like she thought she should get, but they did bring her a first class dessert!

Kyle and I (and Gizmo) had such a great time having my family here in Germany.  It was nice being able to show them some of the places we're always talking about.  We all put a lot of miles on our feet, but we covered a lot of ground in just two weeks!  I'm already looking forward to Mom and Kari's visit here next summer for some fun under the Tuscan sun!

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